HRW: Academic held by Egyptian authorities at risk of death

Human Rights Watch joins 50 other groups to call for the release of Egyptian academic Salah Soltan, detained in Egypt.

Mohamed Soltan, a dual U.S.-Egyptian citizen, is pushed by his father Salah.
Mohammed Soltan was released in 2015, although his father Salah (standing) remains in prison. [File: Heba Elkholy/AP Photo]

An academic detained by Egyptian authorities is at risk of death, a leading rights group has said, urging for his immediate release.

The call announced by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday was backed by 50 other rights groups, who say authorities should provide Salah Soltan with immediate life-saving healthcare and investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

The deliberate denial of healthcare may amount to torture, the United States-based group said.

Sultan, 63, has been “arbitrarily detained” and is the father of a prominent human US rights defender, HRW said.

In a letter leaked in March, Soltan said authorities at a prison east of the Egyptian capital Cairo have deprived him of adequate healthcare “even though he suffers from life-threatening heart and liver diseases among other complex medical conditions”.

Doctors have warned in a letter addressed to US President Joe Biden’s administration that he is at an “increased risk of sudden death”.

His family has said Soltan suffers from chronic and new conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, hepatitis C, and a spinal disc condition, among others.

“On top of railroading him in an unfair trial, Egyptian authorities are deliberately abusing Salah Soltan’s rights by failing to provide him with healthcare,” said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.

“The authorities should at minimum transfer him to a qualified medical facility where independent health professionals can treat him without hindrance.”

‘Abusive conditions’

According to the group, Soltan is a US permanent resident and lived and worked in the country for more than a decade prior to his arrest by Egyptian authorities in 2013. He was arrested along with others who were opposing the military ousting of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood.

At the time, security forces stormed a large protest gathering at Rabaa Square in Cairo and allegedly shot hundreds of unarmed demonstrators.

Egyptian authorities deported his son, 51-year-old Mohamed Soltan, to the US in May 2015, but his father remains in custody.

In September 2017, Soltan was sentenced to life in prison as part of a mass trial that has been criticised for violating the right to due process and for its inclusion of foreign nationals and journalists.

In March, a statement by dozens of rights groups shed light on allegations of denial of healthcare and other “abusive conditions of detention” at the Badr prison complex, where Soltan is held.

The abuses include “24/7 surveillance of cells with CCTV cameras, exposure to florescent lighting around the clock, and chaining prisoners to the walls of their cells without food and water for days at a time”, HRW said.

The groups have called on the US to urge Egypt to release Soltan immediately and seek urgent healthcare for his conditions.

“The Biden administration has prioritised efforts to bring home Americans who have been wrongfully detained abroad, and it is long past time for Salah Soltan to be reunited with his family in the US,” said Allison McManus, the Freedom Initiative’s managing director.

“As long as Soltan remains behind bars, his American family cannot feel truly safe and secure.”

Source: Al Jazeera